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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Farms

Good Eats in the Berkshires

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red lion inn

© Red Lion Inn
The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA.



My crazy wedding season (six this summer) officially kicked off this past weekend. Lucky for me, my friends have all chosen pretty awesome locations in which to get married. Wedding number one took me to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. The wedding was at an adorable place called Santarella in Tyringham that looked like it should have been the hamlet where the hobbits live in Lord of the Rings. I managed to sneak in a marathon eating tour of the area between wedding festivities, and—contrary to a recent Huffington Post story—had some amazing meals. Here, a rundown:

I stayed at the historic, 18th-century Red Lion Inn on a corner of Main Street in Stockbridge. The inn feels like a tribute to Americana with its amazing art collection, Otis Birdcage elevator (which you can really ride on) and even a desk once used by Abraham Lincoln. The restaurant menu in the dining room is a tribute to the area’s local artisans and farmers, including Farm Girl Farm and Berkshire Brewing Company in Great Barrington; Hill Top Orchards in Richmond; and Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. in Old Chatham, NY. Chef Brian Alberg recently introduced separate sustainable menus featuring dishes like an irresistible broken-yolk breakfast sandwich with smoked bacon on thick, toasted Berkshire Mountain Bakery bread. His dinner menu offers some surprises like a roasted eggplant Bolognese that uses quinoa spaghetti and basil oil; and for dessert, a house-made version of my favorite Aussie sweet, Tim Tams.

In nearby Lenox, brunch at the laid-back, two-year-old Haven Cafe & Bakery is phenomenal. I took home the house-made granola and ginger-cardamom scones and stayed for the Eggs “Sardo”—poached eggs topped with sautéed artichoke hearts, spinach and dill hollandaise.

Around the block on Church Street, the Wit Gallery showcases an eclectic mix of art including photography, sculpture and mixed media and recently also started selling artisanal wines from small, family-owned producers like Eric Kent.

Just a few doors away is the barely year-old, 28-seat restaurant Nudel, where chef-owner Bjorn Somlo cooks remarkable seasonally driven food with local ingredients. My braised-Berkshire-pork sandwich with pickled vegetables and spicy sambal aioli had me plotting ways to skip the wedding dinner so I could come back to try his bone-marrow Bolognese or garganelli with ramps and almond pesto.

More tomorrow on my Great Barrington, Massachusetts, finds.

Chefs

First Summer BLT

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Black Pig Meat Co.

About a month ago I went to a Sonoma County event and came away with a rare treat: some Black Pig Meat Co. bacon. The company, founded by Sonoma chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu and Bovolo, makes a mean bacon.  They dry-cure heritage-breed, hormone-free pigs for up to three weeks, then finish them off with applewood smoke. The country has long been nuts for swine, using it in everything from cocktails to chocolate, but for me, the only way I was going to eat this bacon was in a BLT. I froze my stash in anticipation of summer tomatoes at the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market in Brooklyn, and this weekend I was rewarded: I only needed two of the thick-cut slices and the thinnest sliver of tomato to make the perfect sandwich. It'll be hard to get me to stray from this classic combo, but these F&W variations on the BLT have definitely caught my eye.

Ingredients

Fefferoni—My New Favorite Pickled Chile

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Fefferoni--a pickled chile from Macedonia.

© Kristin Donnelly

I stop into Kalustyans every few months to pick up a bottle of cocktail bitters or a bag of the sexy black beluga lentils, and I always find something there I’ve never seen. Most recently, I left with a jar of Va-Va’s Grilled (and pickled) Fefferoni. The skinny finger-size yellow chile pepper is native to the Balkan region and can range from mild to hot. The ones in the jar I snagged are quite fiery and have a lightly smoky flavor from being grilled. I’ve chopped them to add to everything from steamed mussels to grilled cheese sandwiches. The brine is so deliciously garlicky that I want to spike everything with it—including a salad made with those lentils.

Here are more recipes I’d add them to:
Deviled Egg Spread

Chickpea and Spinach Stew

Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Farro Salad with Squid and Chorizo

Cheddar-Polenta Biscuits with Ham Salad

News

Dogfish Head Brewery’s New Syrups

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syrup

© Dogfish Head Brewery
Dogfish Head Brewery's new maple syrups.

Usually when Dogfish Head Brewery’s founder Sam Calagione drops me a note it's to share details about his latest brewing innovation or some radical new beer. But he surprised me (as he usually does) with his newest release, an artisanal, naturally-spiced maple syrup. Calagione has been using maple syrup harvested from his family’s western Massachusetts farm in Dogfish Head’s original might put something in here like "beers like" - wasn't clear to me until i got to IPA that these were beers. Immort Ale, 75 Minute IPA and Life & Limb. He’s now working with Ripley Farm Sugarhouse to make small batches of exotic maple syrups that echo the flavors of some of Dogfish Head’s best brews (the Immort maple syrup has been simmered with organic juniper berries and Madagascar vanilla beans for a sweet and sticky riff on Dogfish Head's Immort Ale. There’s also one modeled after Dogfish Head’s Belgian-style wit beer, flavored with organic orange peel and coriander. The syrups will be sold on Dogfish Head Brewery's website and at the Rehoboth, Delaware, brewery starting May 19. The syrups are lovely on pancakes but even more fantastic drizzled on vanilla ice cream.  

Menus

Cooking with Native Edibles

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soup

© James
Spring Onion Soup from James.

 

The trend of foraging for ingredients continues to grow, even in New York City. To promote the 778 plant species native to the five boroughs, botanist Mariellé Anzelone created NYC Wildflower Week, which runs May 1-9. New York City chefs are featuring dishes made from native edible plants like ramps, fiddlehead ferns and nettles on their menus and hosting salon-style “Wild Tastings” (dinners with guest foragers).  Galen Zamarra of MAS Farmhouse is preparing trout piscator  stuffed with wild ramp and smoked trout mousse and Bryan Calvert of James  is serving an awesome spring onion soup with boar lardon and pecorino. Foragers looking for new recipe ideas should check out chef-author Louisa Shafia’s native edibles cooking class tomorrow where she’ll be teaching guests how to make stinging nettle pesto and lamb’s-quarters-and-pea-shoots soup.

 

 

Ingredients

Are Ramps Being Wiped Out?

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It seems that this year, the popularity of ramps is at an all-time high. But it saddens me to see ramps on every menu and in huge bunches at farmer's markets. The Canadian Biodiversity Project states that over harvesting is the number one cause of ramp-growth decline. And according to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, ramps are “a species of conservation concern.” (Canada even has harvesting restrictions on the slow-growing plant—a sign of how serious they consider the issue to be.) When I forage, whether it’s for wild boletus mushrooms (also known as porcini), fiddleheads or ramps, I only pick a few and leave most behind. I'd like everyone to please do the same. Don’t be ramp hogs.

Menus

Dinner at New Delhi's Varq

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jalebi

© Taj Hotels
Varq's haute take on jalebis.

 

For our May travel issue, we polled chefs, sommeliers and food writers around the globe to come up with the 100 best new food and drink experiences on the planet. Varq restaurant in New Delhi made the cut, and it ended up being my most revelatory meal in India.  

Chef Hemant Oberoi, the Taj hotel group's corporate chef and the visionary behind Varq, and his right-hand man at Varq, executive chef Ankit Sharma, have taken India's street foods and traditional regional dishes and modernized them by applying new techniques and introducing new ingredients, like scallops and foie gras--then serving those dishes on Thomas Keller–designed Limoges china in a very glamorous dining room.

Ganderi kebab, minced chicken marinated with spices, gets deep-fried on a sugarcane stick so that it looks like a corn dog and served in a shot glass with amchur chutney in the bottom. Atta raan, perhaps the most theatrical dish on the menu, is a supertender leg of lamb that has been marinated in mace, cardamom and red chile and baked in a saffron-dough shell. I adored his refined take on the street snacks that I'd been dubiously eating the past week. I'd become addicted to jalebi, a sticky, sugar-high-inducing sweet that looks like a mini funnel cake and has the electric orange color of Cheetos. On the street they are fried in enormous cast-iron pans, fished out of sizzling pools of oil and eaten piping hot. At Varq, they are perfectly shaped spirals of warm, crunchy dough, more yellow than orange (the result of less-sugary syrup), decorated with silver leaf and lined up side by side with a pistachio yogurt for dipping.

When I later met up with Oberoi, I asked him why I can't find that kind of Indian restaurant in New York City. He let me in on a little secret: He's planning a stand-alone Varq in NYC for the near future.

Recipes

Springtime for Chefs

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© Con Poulos
Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb

Tomorrow is the first official day of spring and Tom Colicchio is all a-Twitter about ramps. “It’s spring in NY bring on the ramps,” he Tweeted yesterday. He’s not the only chef excited about spring ingredients: At a recent benefit event for C-CAP, Shaun Hergatt from SHO Shaun Hergatt told me that he can't wait to cook with spring peas and is planning to serve them with sous-vide lamb; Craig Koketsu of the seasonally-driven restaurant Park Avenue Spring is impatiently anticipating rhubarb.

Here are a few recipes for ramps, spring peas and rhubarb to help kick off the season. Plus, check out these 100+ recipes in F&W’s Guide to Fresh Spring Produce:

White Cheese Pizza with Ramps
Spring Peas with Mint
Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb (Pictured)

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